Monday, January 18, 2010

thinking about bicycles, coffee & Parkinson's, on Martin Luther King Day

                                               Tandem Shadow by tandemracer.  From: flickr/ Creative Commons. 

I’m lucky to have marched, to have raised my voice up, with Dr. King -- April 23, 1965.  I was 19-years-old.  On that very same date, 24 years later, my first child, Julia, was born. In the interim, I studied, worked, and traveled a bit.  During the 1970s, people every where, from Mexico to Jerusalem, set out inspirational pictures of Martin Luther King and of Mohamed Ali -- in cafes & restaurants, in billiard & futbolito halls, and at home.  As kids, King enjoyed bicycling and reading; Ali enjoyed bicycling and fighting. Today, I'm thinking about bicycles, coffee & Parkinson's, and of how Mohamed Ali might get some help in his fight against Parkinsonism.

Twelve-year-old Mohamed Ali was livid when some fool stole his bike.  He channeled the anger towards boxing (with the help of two coaches), became "The Greatest" boxer of his day, and the most popular man in the world. In 1984, doctors diagnosed Ali with Parkinsonism or Parkinson's Syndrome, probably caused from boxing and blows to the head.   Its causes are different  than in Parkinson's Disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.

Coffee protects men from developing Parkinson's Disease, and the more coffee we drink, the stronger the shielding.  

When someone has Parkinson's Disease, bicycle riding really helps. An 80 r.p.m. to  90 r.p.m. forced exercise pedaling cadence does the trick. So, Parkinson's patients, who naturally tend towards a slower cadence, ride tandem bikes with stronger riders. Three days a week, an hour a day, for eight weeks can help symptoms improve 30%.  That's slightly better than medication results, and the benefits from cycling stick around longer.  Two weeks after stopping cycling, patients still have a 20% symptom reduction. This research is still in the early stage, and I don't know of any research with Parkinsonism and the bike riding treatment.  It would be interesting to find out.

Ali, if you're reading this, I'm ready for some road work.

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